Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Golden Age of Canadian Diplomacy Has Been Tarnished

Canada learned yesterday, something most of us knew was inevitable. That for the first time in our history our bid for a seat on the UN security council was denied.

Of course the Harper government tried to blame it on Michael Ignatieff, because he rightfully questioned whether this government had earned such a spot.

But he aired this at home. Lawrence Cannon took it international, with typical hyper partisan nonsense.

Michael Ignatieff's father was a career diplomat and once served as acting president of the UN General Assembly. He understands the history and tradition of Canada's involvement as negotiators for peace.

In less than five years, Stephen Harper has destroyed that tradition, and has no one to blame for this embarrassment but himself.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been undermining Canada’s bid for a United Nations Security Council seat since he was first elected back in 2006. Our embarrassing loss to Portugal merely confirms that our image as a progressive, even-handed, nation has taken a knock on his watch.

Apart from staking out a leading Afghan role, the Conservatives treated the UN largely as an afterthought. They aligned Canada closely with then U.S. president George W. Bush’s unloved administration, tilted our Mideast policy to be more pro-Israel, and walked away from pledges to fight global warming. They were erratic on human rights, de-emphasized African aid, and showed scant interest in peacekeeping and disarmament.

And Michael Ignatieff answered Lawrence Cannon's baseless accusations:
At a news conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, Ignatieff called it a "sad and disappointing" as well as "historic day" for Canada because "it's the first time in more than 60 years we failed to secure a seat on an institution that this country helped found.... It's part of the general pattern of disappointing results for Canada on the international stage."

Ignatieff refused to accept blame for losing the seat. "The responsibility for this vote lies squarely and exclusively with the Harper government. Any other proposition is just too ridiculous to entertain," he said. "Don't try this blame game with Canadians." Ignatieff went on to say, "I derive zero pleasure out of this.... Canada deserves a place on the security council."
And John Ivison agrees:
So what happened? It’s all Michael Ignatieff’s fault, according to Lawrence Cannon, the Foreign Minister. “Not being able to speak with one voice had a negative effect on the Canadian campaign,” he told reporters in New York.

How does the government know this? “When the Prime Minister was in New York, there was a buzz,” was the best attempt at quantifying the impact of Mr. Ignatieff’s remarks that Dimitri Soudas, the government’s director of communications, could come up with. This explanation will work for those people who want to think the worst of the Liberal leader, no matter how implausible the story. For those of a more reflective nature, no matter how thin you slice it, it’s baloney.
I think Murray Dobbin may have said it best though: Hurray! We lost – and the world has Harper’s number:
Stephen Harper’s death bed repentance regarding his hostile attitude towards the UN apparently didn’t fool enough delegations to get the suddenly coveted Security Council seat. (Teeny Portugal got 113 votes to Canada’s 78.) This bodes well for the United Nations for if Canada, with its long list of offensive, reactionary and perverse stands on issues had been rewarded for its behaviour, one would have to wonder if the UN really is corrupt.

It is amusing to think back on the trajectory that this misanthrope of a Prime Minister has followed on the UN and the Security Council seat. Like so much else about government, Harper has a visceral hatred of everything about the social democratic and liberal state. His goal has always been to dismantle the activist state and turn it into a dumbed down, minimalist institution consisting of the military, the police (and prisons), CSIS, and the Bank of Canada. Everything else, in Harper’s fantasy world, would be handled by the private sector.

... It is gratifying to know that, finally, the world has taken notice – something that rarely happens simply because there are so few mechanisms for expressing criticism. The vote and its secret ballot were like a global referendum of nations on Canada’s behaviour.
The world has taken notice, but sadly Harper is dragging us down with him.

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